Nontheists Meet with White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Washington, DC--The Secular Coalition for America is pleased to announce a positive step in establishing open lines of communication between the White House and the nontheistic community.

This month, Secular Coalition for America Executive Director, Edwina Rogers, along with several representatives from the nontheistic community, held a meeting with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The purpose of the meeting was to brief the Administration on secular and nontheistic issues, and to establish better lines of communication that can ultimately lead to greater nontheistic involvement.

Representing the Administration in the meeting were Melissa Rogers, Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Reverend David Meyers, Director of the Department of Homeland Security's Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Edwina Rogers described Melissa Rogers as being welcoming to the secular community and said the Coalition is delighted she has accepted the Director position.

"We are pleased that the White House is looking at ways to better include the nontheistic community," said Edwina Rogers. "The Administration seemed to recognize the need for nontheistic inclusion and seemed open to finding areas where we can work together. We hope this meeting will lead to increased cooperation going forward."

The Secular Coalition represents 11 member organizations, over 120 endorsing organizations and advocates at the federal level to strengthen and protect the secular character of the government and to increase the respect and visibility of nontheistic viewpoints. The Secular Coalition also has chapters in all 50 states that advocate at the state level.

Edwina Rogers led a group of several representatives from the nontheistic community including several of the Coalition's member organizations, which included Aisha Goss, Deputy Director of the Secular Coalition for America; Wendy Kaminer, Secular Coalition Advisory Board member; Amanda Knief, Managing Director of American Atheists; Maggie Ardiente, Director of Communications and Development at the American Humanist Association; Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University; Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers; and Michael DeDora, Director of the Center for Inquiry's Office of Public Policy and CFI representative to the United Nations.

Edwina Rogers said it was important that a variety of Coalition members were at the meeting in order to show that the movement is unified. The religiously unaffiliated or "nones" now account for more than 19 percent of the American population. Among people aged 18-29 that number is even higher, with a full 35 percent identifying as unaffiliated, and 42 percent of that segment identifying as atheist or agnostic. The religiously unaffiliated are a growing and politically important demographic-the nones now represent the largest "religious" bloc of registered Democratic voters, comprising 24 percent, according to statistics from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

"It's impossible for the White House to work individually with every organization, but as a unified group the Administration can more efficiently work with us as a community," Edwina Rogers said. "The role of the Secular Coalition is to be the unifying voice that speaks on behalf of the nontheistic and secular community--we feel this meeting was a prime example of our mission in action."

Maggie Ardiente, Director of Communications and Development at the American Humanist Association, said it was an important part of ongoing work the nontheistic community is doing.

"Doors are opening for the secular community like never before, and we thank Melissa Rogers for recognizing the significant contributions nonbelievers can make toward a better society," said Ardiente, noting that the religiously unaffiliated will continue to be a large voting bloc in upcoming elections. "We're making tremendous progress and we must continue to connect with lawmakers at the federal level to make our issues known."

Edwina Rogers said the Coalition looks forward to continuing to work with the White House and the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the future.

Pictured above from left to right: Wendy Kaminer, Michael DeDora, Amanda Knief, Greg Epstein, Melissa Rogers, Jason Torpy, Edwina Rogers, Maggie Ardiente, and Aisha Goss.

 

CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA Communications Manager at lauren@secular.org or (202)299-1091 ext. 205, cell (202)630-9725

 

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